Effective cloud optimisation requires a considered approach
Willem Conradie, CTO of PBT Group
Globally, organisations are adopting cloud computing at an impressive, sometimes alarming, rate. Many do so with ambitions to realise the numerous benefits of cloud computing.
For instance, some organisations are adopting cloud and hoping to become more agile, while for others the primary intent is to save costs. Furthermore, organisations are also adopting cloud technologies to leverage on the promise of gaining a competitive advantage by making use of the unlimited scalability cloud technology has to offer.
While on the surface all these benefits sound very attractive, the process of practically migrating to and optimising the cloud is not so simple.
Certainly, the major hyper-scalers all provide frameworks, like the AWS Cloud Adoption Framework, that do offer good guidance and best practices to follow, but cloud migrations are very complex – it cannot be thought of as a “one size fits all” approach – and organisations still experience a multitude of challenges during the cloud migration process.
Understanding the challenges
In context, one of the biggest challenges is the scarcity of skills in the market. Due to the rapid adoption of cloud computing, there is a major undersupply of experienced cloud professionals. This in turn leads to delays in migration projects due to a lack of capacity to do the actual migration work.
A resultant impact is that business projects tend to move on at their own pace. For the business this can be advantageous in gaining the agility to be able to adapt to market or business changes, like keeping pace with their competition, while undertaking (what could be) a significant migration. In turn, however, this can place the IT teams – who often are already expected to manage the entire ICT ecosystem and provide support services – at an even greater disadvantage, with additional pressures to managing a successful cloud migration while simultaneously allowing the business to move forward at its required timeline.
Another major challenge is managing cloud usage costs and expectations associated with that. Many organisations during their cloud migration, or soon thereafter, realise that usage costs in the cloud are much higher than they planned for. Given current economic conditions cost efficiencies are on the radar of most organisations.
Finally, the last noteworthy challenge that I want to mention is that of keeping up with the rapid pace at which cloud compute services evolve. Migrating to the cloud is not a static destination to reach and then it is all over. Continued innovation in the cloud makes it a moving target. Once the organisation is in the cloud it needs to continuously make adjustments to adopt these new capabilities on offer, commonly referred to as cloud optimisation.
Overcoming the challenges
There are many ways to address the challenges mentioned above.
In terms of the skills shortage, many organisations tend to partner with service providers who hold a dearth of technical and specialised capabilities. These service providers have a good track record of successfully doing cloud migrations and also offer training and knowledge transfer to the organisation’s staff.
One way for IT teams to address the challenge of keeping up with business demand is to take a modular approach to the overall cloud migration project. This will empower these teams to complete smaller iterations focussing on delivering business value with each iteration and minimising the disruption on business projects. Of course, this is easier said than done, however partnering with experienced service provides can make this approach a practical reality.
Cloud usage cost is always very difficult to estimate. From the get-go, it is imperative to manage and control costs in the cloud. This can be done by making use of cost management services in the cloud. Putting automated monitoring in place is a great first start, for example, as it allows organisations to set billing thresholds, alerts, and allows for automated actions to take place when certain thresholds are reached. These monitoring services can go as far as immediately shutting down the service that is transgressing a predefined threshold, meaning that no additional charges will be incurred.
Other cost management options include “auto pause” and “resume” of service when they are not used. A more complicated one could be to adopt software-as-a service options for cloud computing. Though if done correctly, this type of approach can result in substantial cost savings.
To address the challenges with cloud optimisation, organisations have multiple approaches that can be employed.
One way is by continued research. It is important to be aware of new innovations in the cloud that can help reduce costs. However, just as important is that those innovations must be adopted and implemented to realise the actual savings they can offer.
On the other hand, simplifying cloud architectures, or improving efficiencies of large-scale data pipelines can also result in major cost reductions. Again, this is where partnering with an experienced service provider can be of great benefit; since they have done this before and know exactly where to find the culprits that typically lead to unnecessary spend in the cloud.
Cloud migration and optimisation, when managed effectively, can indeed offer organisations the sought-after benefits of scalability, cost efficiency, and agility. The key is in being prepared, by understanding the associated challenges and having effective strategies in place to address them.